Monday, December 16, 2019

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly in Pittsburgh

Let's get this out of the way first--it's remarkable that a bunch of presidential candidates came to talk education. It's extraordinary that they came to see us this year. There was no doubt that they all though our votes worth pursuing, and came out in hopes of showing us how much they love and respect teachers. Most of them spoke of having teachers in their families. This, they suppose, will make us love them. Yet if they almost all have teachers in their families, they need to differentiate on that theme.

This is a huge improvement over the last few campaigns, where we endorsed without getting anything in return. I don't know what Hillary would've done about education, but I will never forget being in Minnesota and having her tell us we can "learn from public charter schools." Once you call them that, you've drunk the Kool-Aid, Furthermore, I've seen no evidence they do anything better than we do, beyond picking and choosing kids and dumping those they don't like. Neither of those things impress me. 

My grandfather was an electrician. He was very clever. He could work out things for people that they were happy with. However, you wouldn't want me to poking around wires in your home any time soon. Now I loved my grandfather, but I inherited absolutely none of his electrical skills. I'm not at all sure having a teacher in your family makes you palatable to teachers. It certainly doesn't mean you understand the job.

It's not a bad thing that they want our votes. What are they willing to give for them, though? Even though a few dozen pro-charter folks stood outside and protested, none of the candidates spoke substantively against charters. I believe Warren said they ought to be subject to the same regulations public schools are, and I know that's not bringing holiday cheer to the Moskowitz family. Last I looked, Bernie's not a fan at all. Too bad for them.

My biggest surprise was Amy Klobuchar. Though she isn't a top-tier candidate, and thus gets little media coverage, she was surprisingly persuasive. She doesn't seem to share my desire for a national health program, or for free community colleges, but she seems quite sincere. She was the only candidate who spoke of having a teacher in her family who also made it seem like it was of genuine importance to her.

It was pretty disgusting that Michael Bennet could get up in front of all those people and say that he didn't support privatization. Most people, when they use that word, are referring specifically to charters, and he's a big booster of charters, receiving consistently high marks from DFER, no less. Reformies hold fundraisers for him. After telling us how much he loved us, he walked directly out and met with the charter supporters who were protesting our event.

I'm sorry, but schools that take our money and do whatever they please with it are not public schools. You don't bring a ham sandwich to a banquet, and you don't sprinkle the water supply with arsenic either. Charters are a destructive force to public education. We are constantly short on funding, and they suck it from us. Right here in NYC, we're required to pay rent for the likes of Eva Moskowitz so she can test prep children until they pee their pants. Closer to Pittsburgh, PA districts are going broke because they're required to support charters.

From all I could see, MSNBC micromanaged the questions. I was in a room where people were rewriting questions with MSNBC feedback. I don't think they should have any say whatsoever in what the questions are. They rejected my initial question because someone else had mentioned New Orleans. That's ridiculous, because each candidate will have a different viewpoint. Furthermore, their reporters spouted unexamined nonsense about the NAEP and PISA, two tests about which they appeared to know nothing. They questioned several candidates about that.

Those of us in states like NY don't get much of a voice in the primaries. We're taken 100% for granted in the general. I don't think we'll get a whole lot of opportunity to make a difference. By the time the race hits us, it could very well be close to over, if not over. People in Iowa and New Hampshire get to see these candidates up close all the time.

I'm sure AFT has people there. I'm not at Executive Board tonight because the last time I went on a snowy night they told me to turn around and go home. If I were there I'd ask whether there was an AFT effort to make sure the Democrats get challenging questions from working teachers. If I lived there I'd be following them everywhere.

How can those of us in non-swing states that don't have early primaries amplify our voices in this election?
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